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The essence of hitchhiking is the journey itself. It is a cheap, and often even free way to meet new people that teaches you patience and responsibility. So how to start an adventure or broaden your experience? There are proven ways to hitchhike - just know the right places and the best tactics. 

Below you will learn how to hitchhike effectively and which places are best for it. We will tell you what you should keep in mind while preparing for the journey and advise you what to avoid. No matter if you are just starting your adventure with the foot, or if you are a skilled traveller - thanks to this guide you will travel more effectively and safely, while getting the best out of your trip.


  1. Ways to hitchhike

  2. The best and worst places to hitchhike

  3. Hitchhiker's appearance

  4. Luggage

  5. Women on the move 

  6. Gestures of drivers and hitchhikers

  7. Conditions for hitchhikers worldwide

  8. Dos and Don'ts

Ways to hitchhike

There are several ways to hitchhike. None of them can be described as "the most effective", because each one of them works depending on the situation and circumstances:

  • 👍 Thumb up - the most popular gesture signaling that someone is looking for a ride. It works in European countries, but in West Africa, Asia, South America or the Middle East it is perceived as an offensive gesture. You will find out more about this gesture in the section Gestures of drivers and hitchhikers.
  • 🚧 With a sign - usually a piece of paper with the name of the town or the direction in which we want to go, used as a sign to catch a ride. This works especially in North America.
  • 🏁 With the flag - the flag of your country of origin attached to the back of the backpack can also be seen as a sign to find a ride. It works all over the world.
  • 😎 Talking up to strangers - a direct question to, for example, drivers in parking lots, or employees of restaurants or gas stations. You can gain more in your favor by showing fatigue or feeling cold during the conversation. It is worth remembering to introduce yourself and show that we are not vagrants, but ordinary citizens (this is especially important in the USA).

The best and worst places to hitchhike

The place where we stand is particularly important when hitchhiking - not all of them will be suitable. Some places are worth avoiding, because they simply turn out to be a waste of time and give a vain hope that someone will stop at all. Below you will find a list of the best and worst places to catch a foot: 

Best places:

  • gas stations
  • parking lots
  • access roads to the freeway
  • tourist sites
  • temple surroundings
  • campsites
  • exit routes from cities

Worst places:

  • highways - there is a small probability that someone will stop there - it is illegal and dangerous activity
  • cemeteries, police stations and prison areas - these areas are perceived as suspicious and drivers rarely stop there
  • city centers - it's easy to get stuck in traffic jams, and the probability of someone going in the direction you're heading is low

Hitchhiker's appearance

Appearance comes down to the right clothes and size of luggage, although the second one is less often problematic and less important. Hitchhiker's clothing allows the driver to judge who the hitchhiker is and what to expect from him or her. Tidy and neat look will work best - torn, dirty clothes can effectively deter drivers. An additional advantage can be gained by wearing bright clothes that will allow the driver to see you from a distance and give him or her more time to think about it.

It is also worth taking into account the size and amount of baggage, because the excess may be a deterrent. The best way to do this is to pack it sparingly, which will not only make us less problematic hitchhikers for drivers, but will also help us to move around smoothly. 


Properly packed luggage allows the hitchhiker to prepare for eventualities such as having to sleep on the road, in the forest or in the parking lot, as well as waiting for the car in various weather conditions. Additionally, hitchhiking means that everything we've packed will be carried on our backs, so it's worth betting on economical packing.

A list of necessary things:

  • Backpack (as small as possible)
  • Mattress
  • Sleeping bag
  • A small souvenir for the driver (e.g. a figurine of your country's flag)
  • Tactical knife / Pen Knife
  • Bottle of water
  • Food
  • Flashlight
  • Map
  • Raincoat
  • Towel
  • Documents
  • Cash
  • Self-defence item (e.g. pepper spray)

*Tent (if you plan to sleep on your own)

Use MyLuggage for free

Women on the move

Hitchhiking may involve more risk for a woman than for a man. This is a particularly important issue in Asia - in Arab countries and countries in South-East Asia. This is due to a different perception of the role of women in society compared to Western culture. When travelling alone, a woman should stick to several principles:

  • ❗ Hitchhike only in populated areas
  • ❗ Make the impression of the person that is awaited by someone somewhere
  • ❗ Have pepper spray with you 
  • ❗ Don't dress daringly 

It may be a good idea to travel with a friend, preferably in mixed couples (male and female).

Gestures of drivers and hitchhikers

Cultural diversity means that some behaviors and gestures can be perceived differently in different places around the world. The “thumb up”, a typical hitchhiker's gesture, can be positive or negative, depending on the continent. Besides, not only hitchhikers but also drivers often use different signals to communicate. Check the alternatives to "thumb up" and the signals that hitchhikers give to drivers:

👋 Hitchhiker:

Gestures for wanting to catch a ride:

  • Thumb up - works in Europe and North America, avoid using it in South America, Asia Minor, South East Asia and West Africa
  • Hand facing up - works in Africa 
  • Pointing the finger at the road - works in Australia and Oceania, avoid this gesture in Asia
  • Stretching out your hand - similar to trying to shake someone's hand, works in Asia Minor
  • The thumb is pointing horizontally behind the back - works well in South America
  • Farewell waving - horizontal palm waving up and down, like a bending gesture, works in Asia

👋 Driver:

  • Indication of upholstery in front of the steering wheel / turning the wheel with your finger / thumb down - means that the driver is from this area or turning back, so he will not take anyone
  • Showing a finger to the side - means that the driver turns in another direction in a moment
  • Spreading hands/rise of hands horizontally above the head - the driver has no room on board

Conditions for hitchhikers worldwide

It is worth knowing that hitchhiking is not legal in all countries of the world. Before you leave, it is a good idea to check if there are regulations in the country that prohibit or restrict this way of travelling.


  • Relatively easy to catch a foot
  • Usually you don't have to pay

USA and Canada:

  • Easy to catch a foot
  • Usually you don't have to pay 
  • Depending on the condition, there are designated areas for hitchhiking in the USA
  • Lonely women hitchhiking in the parking lot can be seen as prostitutes
  • Cardboard plates are a good way to get on your feet

Latin and South America:

  • Easy to hitchhike
  • Usually you have to pay a small amount

Australia and Oceania:

  • Relatively easy to hitchhike
  • Usually you don't have to pay


  • Very easy to hitchhike
  • You have to pay a small amount in most cases
  • White women travelling alone may be perceived as sex workers (it is better to travel in mixed pairs, i.e. woman-man).


  • Very easy to hitchhike
  • You have to pay a small amount in most cases
  • In some countries hitchhiking should be avoided because it is dangerous (e.g. Republic of South Africa)

Dos and Don'ts


  • ✔️ To make the driver stop, try to smile and make eye contact with him
  • ✔️ Set a price before you get in the vehicle (the ride is not always free)
  • ✔️ Always thank the driver for the ride, regardless of the distance travelled
  • ✔️ Wait your turn if there is another group of hitchhikers before you
  • ✔️ Stand where the driver will have space to stop
  • ✔️ Learn basic phrases in the local language
  • ✔️ Always carry pepper spray 
  • ✔️ Talk to your driver and share your stories
  • ✔️ Keep valuables like phone, money or passport with you
  • ✔️ Whenever possible, travel with someone you know 
  • ✔️ A kind gesture would be to offer to pay for gasoline or give a souvenir (e.g. a miniature flag of your country)
  • ✔️ Always trust your instinct - if you have any doubts about someone, get off with a simple excuse


  • ❌ Don't sleep in the car while driving (unless you're still going with someone you know or you're really tired)
  • ❌ Do not discuss religious, racial or political issues with your driver
  • ❌ Don't catch foot at night 
  • ❌ Do not get into a car with a driver you suspect is under the influence of alcohol or intoxicated.
  • ❌ Try not to travel alone, especially if you are a woman

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